The Parisian flaneur: Magical Messi moments are PSG’s salvation

The Parisian flaneur
Magical Messi moments are PSG’s salvation

By Ullrich Kroemer, Paris

Lionel Messi saves Paris St. Germain against Leipzig with his first double for his new club three points and even impresses with the penalty spot. Even if the likeness is still missing on the stadium wall: The Argentine is leaving his first traces in Paris. An observation.

A game-winning penalty is usually not a situation where the shooter can shine. Unless that shooter is called Lionel Messi. Carefully like a raw egg, he lays the ball on the spot on Tuesday night in Paris’ Parc des Princes, runs, stops shortly before the shot – and loads RB Leipzig keeper Peter Gulacsi with a chipped ball, which is centered in a high arc as if in slow motion spins into the gate. A so-called Panenka 911, as it was named after Antonin Panenka for the first time in the final of the European Championship in 1976 with the Czech Republic against Sepp Maier. There is no more cheeky and ingenious way to convert a penalty (74th). A statement and proof that Messi at the age of 34 can also make the difference at Paris St. Germain.

It is the goal of the 3-2 (1-1) final in this exciting Champions League game between PSG and RBL, in which Messi tied his first brace for his new club and recently his first goal for Paris against Manchester City experienced second great evening with PSG.

It is still unusual to see “La Pulga” (the flea) no longer in the FC Barcelona jersey, but now in the royal dark blue of the Parisians. But with evenings like this, the Argentine, who is supposed to receive 110 million euros net for three years, is making the new dress more and more his own.

Even Ronaldinho drops in

As in Barcelona, ​​Messi is not (yet) omnipresent in the Parisian cityscape. Jerseys with his name and number 30 can be seen again and again, but after all, two other absolute superstars play here with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. On the stadium wall, where the likenesses of all the PSG icons such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic can be seen as graffiti, his is still missing. Messi jerseys, which were sold out shortly after its presentation, are available again in the fan shop next to the Prinzenpark. After the game, fans proudly hold their newly purchased shirts in the air like a trophy and have themselves photographed with them.

Messi’s gala evening against grass ball sport begins with a reunion with a good old friend. His companion Ronaldinho, who both played at Barca for four years, will be honored with a lap of honor at PSG. Messi briefly interrupts the preparation for the game, warmly hugged his aging and now heavy colleague and turns back to the ball. When the stadium announcer recited the first names of the Parisian players, the fans chanted Messi’s name a little louder than those of his colleagues.

Right at the beginning of the game, he is the focus of the discussions – in the unfamiliar role of the delinquent. In his own penalty area, he conquered a ball against Leipzig striker André Silva, which Julian Draxler used diagonally across the field to assist Kylian Mbappés 1-0 (10th). But Messi treads Silva lightly on the tip of the foot. The Italian referee Marco Guida could have whistled the Leipzigers should have said: but Silva was probably too theatrical for that.

Pochettino’s trick

After that, Messi, who plays on the right at PSG in 4-3-3, tries to get more into the game and in final situations himself. Sometimes he drops a little deeper and more centrally, sometimes he castles and swaps positions with Mbappé. But he also takes time out, like a stroller – a Parisian flaneur – he then appears, sometimes stops completely and observes the game seemingly frozen, as if he were not taking part in it at all when he thought he knew that a situation would not result in anything . And even defensively, he sometimes lacks the desire and the feeling when he has to help out at the back. When Angeliño initiates the equalization of the strong Leipzig through Silva, he has a lot of space in front of him, because Messi simply lets him go (28th).

RB defends the player of the century as well as possible against players with his quality. “There is no better player in the world in tight spaces and at tempo dribbling. But we gave him little space, we doubled him over and over again, but it has been shown that he is callous in the crucial situations”, analyzes Leipzig’s head of defense Willi Orban to the point.

This is also possible thanks to a change by PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino. “Having Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes higher on the tracks gave Leo Messi more space in the center,” said Messi’s Argentinian compatriot. So the man from La Rosario appears in the center after the game-winning mistake by Tyler Adams, who spoons a ball in midfield on Mbappé under distress, and shoots the crossed ball first at the inside post and then into the goal (67th). The turning point in the game, in which a victory was possible for the now pointless Leipzig after the leadership by Nordi Mukiele (57th). “If we make such serious mistakes, Messi and Mbappé are ready,” says RB coach Marsch, exasperated. It is Leipzig’s dropouts and the individual class of Messi & Co. that save Paris victory that night. “It’s good to have such exceptional players, but we have to build a team around it, and we’re still developing,” said Pochettino.

This has been the case in most of his 152 Champions League games (123 goals): The others talk about him, Messi himself is silent with satisfaction.

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